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Soccer: France-Spain highlight of upcoming World Cup qualifiers
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

International club soccer takes a break around most of the world this week as the road to the 2014 World Cup continues with the next round of qualifying matches.

One batch was played on Friday, and the second batch is on Tuesday. Among the marquee games on the schedule: France vs. Spain (12:55 p.m., ESPN2); Chile vs. Argentina; Bolivia vs. Uruguay; Poland vs. England; Germany vs. Sweden; U.S. vs. Guatemala (5:15 p.m., ESPN2); and Mexico vs. El Salvador.

No question the game between France and Spain in Madrid offers the most sizzling matchup. You've got the winners of three of the past four European championships and two of the past four World Cups. France was the team of the late 1990s, and Spain is now the undisputed team to beat.

The last time the teams played each other was the quarterfinals of Euro 2012, and Spain won 2-0.

But France has a new coach this time, Didier Deschamps, and he has his team playing much better. France and Spain lead the group with six points. The Spaniards will not be at full strength, as Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique are injured, but they looked sharp in a 4-0 win over Belarus on Friday.

The match is especially intriguing because it features so many club teammates playing against each other. France's Gael Clichy and Spain's David Silva play for Manchester City; France's Olivier Giroud and Spain's Santi Cazorla play for Arsenal; and France's Karim Benzema plays for Real Madrid alongside many of Spain's biggest stars.

England heads into the Poland match hoping to put behind off-field drama involving defender Ashley Cole, who was fined two weeks' wages by Chelsea after an obscenity-laced Twitter tirade against the Football Association. He was mad that an FA report on the John Terry racism case implied that Cole lied.

Soccer • Busy Tuesday also includes U.S. vs. Guatemala.
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